Canada is the first country to kick money to a new fund designed to breathe life into a global pact to protect nature, but before the fund can be tapped by those who need it, others will have to step up.
On Thursday, at the once-every-four-year meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) — a multibillion-dollar pot of money from rich countries that help developing countries meet environmental goals — a new program called the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) was launched in Vancouver.
The GBFF is to support the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) — a Paris Agreement-style pact for nature — signed at last year’s COP15.
But before the GBFF can be accessed by developing countries and Indigenous Peoples, it needs to hit a minimum of US$200 million from three donor countries, explained acting executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) David Cooper in an interview with Canada’s National Observer. The CBD is a 30-year-old international treaty that organizes the world’s biodiversity goals.
Canada’s $200-million contribution (US$147 million) represents roughly 75 per cent of the minimum threshold. The only other country to publicly commit funds Thursday was the United Kingdom, with a US$17-million pledge. There remains an approximate US$40-million gap needed from at least one other country.
“Now the pressure should be on other donors to also help cross the line,” Cooper said, adding the U.K. has signalled it would contribute more funding next year and Japan is signalling it will follow suit.
“For meaningful programming of the fund, we'll need a lot more than (US$200 million),” he said. “More on the levels of a billion I think we'll need to see in 2024 so that there are sufficient funds.”
Canada’s $200-million pledge to the fund is not new money. Rather, it’s an allocation from a $350-million pledge announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at COP15 — the UN’s biodiversity summit held in Montreal last year — to advance biodiversity goals globally. According to some experts, Canada’s decision to contribute to the new fund is an attempt to fill a vacuum of leadership on the global biodiversity file.
This new fund “is critical so that developing countries and Indigenous Peoples can access funding and implement their goals,” Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said. He added he believes it will be a “key factor” in the world’s efforts to stop and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 — the target year countries agreed to at COP15.
“For meaningful programming of the fund, we'll need a lot more than (US$200 million)... More on the levels of a billion I think we'll need to see in 2024 so that there are sufficient funds.” #biodiversity
The new fund is designed to make the GBF agreed to last year possible by helping countries and Indigenous Peoples pay for nature protection. The GBF commits countries to protect 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030, recognizes Indigenous leadership as a central pillar of achieving these goals and reaffirms Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent to development projects on their territories. It includes a call to support poorer countries with US$200 billion to protect nature by 2030, including US$20 billion per year between now and 2025 and US$30 billion per year after that until the end of the decade from rich countries.
Finance is the lifeblood of the agreement. Without money to pay for nature protection, those conservation targets would fall by the wayside like previous international conservation targets, according to experts.
Canada’s National Observer has reviewed 21 letters sent on behalf of Guilbeault and International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen to finance and environment ministers of countries including the United States, China, Brazil, India, Germany, France and others. The letters gave notice that Canada would contribute to the fund and asked others to step up.
“We hope that you will join us in announcing a contribution… If not, we hope you could consider an initial contribution as soon as possible before the end of 2023, considering your national circumstances, to build confidence and ensure the GBFF’s success,” the letters say.
Guilbeault has skin in the game after taking political heat for his close collaboration with China to land that agreement. Political opponents have pounced on that ongoing working relationship as tensions between China and western countries grow.
A spokesperson for Guilbeault’s office said climate change and nature protection negotiations always speak of urgency, but given the wildfires on display and other extreme impacts of climate change the world is witnessing, urgent rhetoric needs to be reflected in “something concrete.”
“Political leadership requires having front-runners,” the spokesperson said. “That's a key message that Minister Guilbeault is trying to bring through not just making the pledge, but also making sure that he tries to work with other countries so that same sense of urgency and concrete action is shared across other contributor countries, which is why it was not just pledging but asking other countries to follow.”
Climate Action Network Canada senior international policy analyst Pratishtha Singh told Canada’s National Observer the $200 million pledge is a welcome move by Canada.
“One of the things that was lacking in the (Convention on Biological Diversity) space for long was the political leadership from the countries to talk about the biodiversity crisis,” she said. “The announcement today I think will send a strong signal of solidarity, especially to Global South countries and also encouraging peers like other rich nations to contribute to the fund.”
Despite the US$200 billion by 2030 goal countries have agreed to, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has said some estimates peg the global biodiversity funding gap at US$598 billion to $824 billion per year by 2030 and US$4.1 trillion by 2050. While high, the UNEP says those estimates are achievable, pointing to US$133 billion worth of nature-based solution financing today.
“These investments need to at least triple by 2030 and increase four-fold by 2050 from the current level,” according to the UNEP.